7-Day Menu Planner

Chicken Thighs With Date Butter Sauce
(HarperCollins/Jeremy Scheck)
Chicken Thighs With Date Butter Sauce (HarperCollins/Jeremy Scheck)

A week's worth of quick, healthful meals for budget-minded families

SUNDAY: Family day is a terrific day to serve Chicken Thighs With Date Butter Sauce (see recipe). Serve the combo entree with a spinach salad and dinner rolls. Make or buy apple crisp for dessert.

Plan ahead: Save enough chicken and apple crisp for Monday.

MONDAY: Use the leftovers for Chicken, Black Bean and Corn Salad Wraps: Shred cooked chicken and mix with canned corn (rinsed and drained), black beans (drained), shredded lettuce and salsa. Serve rolled up in warm whole-grain tortillas. Add sliced avocado alongside. Scoop the leftover crisp for dessert.

TUESDAY: Wrap it up again tonight because the kids will love Easy Beef Roll-Ups: Spread 6 (6- or 7-inch) whole-grain tortillas with chive-and-onion cream cheese (or plain lower-fat cream cheese), slices of deli roast beef, shredded lettuce and thin slices of tomato. Roll and cut each on bias into 2 pieces. Add carrot salad. For dessert, make chocolate pudding. Stir in tiny marshmallows and sliced bananas for a kid kind of dessert.

WEDNESDAY: Try Cajun Meatloaf With Roasted Sweet Potatoes (see recipe) for a low-cost dinner. Serve with peas and carrots (from frozen) and cornbread. For dessert, fresh pears are in season.

THURSDAY: Pasta Puttanesca With Mixed Olives and Walnuts (see recipe) is a flavorful way to skip meat. Alongside, add an arugula salad and whole-grain rolls. A little strawberry ice cream is dessert.

Plan ahead: Save enough ice cream for Saturday.

FRIDAY: Try Oven-Roasted Open-Face Turkey Reuben Sandwiches tonight: Heat oven and a rimmed baking sheet to 450 degrees. In a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, combine 1/3 cup cider vinegar and 2 tablespoons sugar; bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar. Add 1 (16-ounce) bag coleslaw mix; cover and cook, tossing occasionally, 8 to 10 minutes or until coleslaw is tender. Remove lid; simmer 1 to 2 minutes or until most of liquid has evaporated. In a small bowl, combine 3 tablespoons mayonnaise and 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard. Coat each of 8 slices rye bread with cooking spray. Evenly spread mustard-mayonnaise mixture on each bread slice. Divide and layer 8 slices Swiss cheese, coleslaw, and 1 pound thinly sliced turkey on bread slices. Gently compress each sandwich. Transfer to heated baking sheet. Bake 10 minutes or until toasted on bottom. Serve with sweet potato chips. For dessert, enjoy fresh pineapple.

SATURDAY: The flavor and the simplicity make Sauteed Scallops a great meal for guests and host alike: Heat 2 tablespoons butter in a nonstick skillet on medium. Add 1 pound bay scallops; cook 1 to 2 minutes or until opaque throughout. Stir in 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, 1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley ¾ teaspoon coarse salt and ¾ teaspoon ground black pepper. Serve over rice. Add steamed zucchini, a Boston lettuce salad and a baguette. Top the leftover strawberry ice cream with warm fudge sauce for dessert.

THE RECIPES

Chicken Thighs With Date Butter Sauce

  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper (cayenne)
  • 8 large bone-in skin-on chicken thighs
  • 8 dates, pitted and thinly sliced
  • 8 carrots, chopped
  • 1 rib celery, thinly sliced
  • ½ red onion, sliced into rings
  • ½ cup dry white wine (or enough to coat pan evenly)
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • ½ cup minced parsley

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Mix together the butter, salt, black pepper and red pepper in a medium bowl. Arrange chicken evenly on sheet pan. Rub butter mixture onto skin. Places dates, carrots, celery and onion in the pan around the chicken. Place pan in oven; carefully pull out rack and pour wine around the chicken. Bake 40 to 45 minutes until skin is crispy and the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees. Finish the chicken with a squeeze of lemon juice and a sprinkling of parsley. (Adapted from "Cooking Smarter," Jeremy Scheck, Harper Collins)

Makes 8 servings.

Nutrition information: Each serving contains approximately 381 calories, 30 g protein, 21 g fat, 15 g carbohydrate, 185 mg cholesterol, 662 mg sodium and 3 g fiber.

Carbohydrate choices: 1

Cajun Meatloaf With Roasted Sweet Potatoes

  • 2 pounds ground turkey
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil, divided use
  • 1/3 cup ketchup
  • 1 large green bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 ribs celery, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning
  • ¼ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon hot sauce
  • 2 pounds sweet potatoes, halved and cut into ½-inch slices
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup salsa

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a roasting pan with cooking spray.

For meatloaf: In a large bowl, mix turkey, 1 tablespoon oil, ketchup, bell pepper, celery, Cajun seasoning, onion powder and hot sauce. Shape into a 9-by-4-inch oval loaf. Place loaf in roasting pan.

For potatoes: In another large bowl, combine potatoes, black pepper and 1 tablespoon oil; toss to coat. Arrange potatoes around meatloaf. Bake 65 to 70 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees and potatoes are tender. Spoon salsa over meatloaf the last 10 minutes of cooking. Remove from oven; let stand 5 minutes. Slice loaf and serve.

Makes 8 servings.

Nutrition information: Each serving (prepared with no-salt Cajun seasoning) contains approximately 276 calories, 29 g protein, 5 g fat, 28 g carbohydrate, 77 mg cholesterol, 261 mg and 4 g fiber.

Carbohydrate choices: 2

Pasta Puttanesca With Mixed Olives and Walnuts

  • 1 pound spaghetti or linguine
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup coarsely chopped onion
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (28-ounce) can no-salt-added diced tomatoes
  • ¾ cup pitted and coarsely chopped mixed olives (green and black)
  • 2 tablespoons drained capers
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper (cayenne)
  • ¾ cup coarsely chopped toasted walnuts
  • Fresh chopped basil and freshly grated parmesan cheese for garnish

Cook pasta according to package directions; drain.

Heat oil in a large saucepan on medium. Add onion; cook 5 minutes or until softened. Add garlic; cook 1 more minute. Stir in tomatoes, olives, capers, tomato paste and red pepper; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low; cook 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Toss with hot pasta. Sprinkle each plate with walnuts, basil and parmesan before serving.

Makes 6 servings.

Nutrition information: Each serving contains approximately 361 calories, 10 g protein, 13 g fat, 52 g carbohydrate, no cholesterol, 292 mg sodium and 4 g fiber.

Carbohydrate choices: 3 ½

Susan Nicholson is an Atlanta-based cookbook author and registered dietitian. She can be reached by email: [email protected]

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